Family and faculty


Cruz’s Aunt Marisol is the Society’s number one expert on anthropology, which she teaches at the Academy. (Cruz is one of her students!) Marisol attended the Academy with her best friend and Cruz's mother, Petra, when they were younger. She loves to wear bright colors and bold patterns. She often sends Cruz coded postcards from her many travels.


Cruz’s mother, Petra, was a student at Explorer Academy when she was her son’s age. Her best friend was Marisol Coronado, Cruz’s aunt. After graduating, Petra went on to work for the Society and helped to establish the Synthesis, a top-secret lab. Unfortunately she died in a mysterious accident at the lab when Cruz was only 5 years old. Before the accident, she left a trail of clues about her secret work hidden across the globe that only Cruz can unlock.


Dr. Hightower is the strict but caring president of Explorer Academy. Once an explorer herself before becoming a conservation professor, she rose through the Society’s ranks until she was appointed as the school’s leader. Beneath her commanding personality, she has a deep love for the Academy and its explorers.


Romain Legrand is the professor of fitness and survival training at Explorer Academy. The French thrill-seeker and adventurer has paraglided over the Alps in Europe, dived to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, trekked across Peru’s Atacama Desert, and even performed with the acrobatic troupe Cirque du Soliel. Professor Legrand’s classes are always fun and challenging.


Malcolm Rook is the head librarian at Explorer Academy’s Washington, D.C., campus. He is cheerful and helpful, gaining Cruz’s trust as he begins his first year at the Academy. But could that friendly exterior be hiding something more sinister?


Dr. Fanchon (pronounced FAN-shahn) Quills is the chief of scientific technology and innovation at the Academy and lab chief on board the ship Orion. Outgoing, clever, and never afraid to do her own thing, Fanchon invented the wearable tech for the explorers’ uniforms and created several gadgets—such as the communicator and translator pin, and the UCC (Universal Cetacean Communicator) helmet—that the they use in the field. She greatly admires the work of Cruz’s mother, Petra Coronado, and is a mentor to Emmett. She also has a wild flare for style.


Marco and Cruz moved back to Hawaii, where marco grew up, after Cruz’s mom died. For many years it’s been just the two of them, so the father and son have a strong relationship. Marco is friendly, outgoing, and often makes silly jokes. Like his sister, Marisol, Marco likes to wear bright colors and bold patterns. He owns the Goofy Foot Surf Shop in Hanalei Bay, Hawaii.


Taryn Secliff is Cruz’s dorm advisor who travels with his class when they board the Orion. Kind and helpful, Taryn cares a lot about the students, often giving advice and helping solve problems. No wonder the explorers like of her as the “mom” of their class. She also loves to knit and is close friends with Dr. Fanchon Quills.


Taryn’s constant companion is Hubbard, her energetic and adorable West Highland white terrier. Beloved by the explorers, the pooch is especially close to Cruz—perhaps because they share a secret. While onboard the Orion, Hubbard wears a bright-yellow doggy life vest.

—Illustrations by Scott Plumbe